Memoirs of the West Coast
Words by Alex Eales
Photography by Andrew Bance
Many moons ago a friend presented me with a photo of a devilish wave - curling, crashing and spitting onto an unyielding rock shelf set below an oily ocean surface. Something enchanting was captured in that picture, which stuck in my naïve mind. “If you show anyone, I’d have to kill you”, said the bearded freckled faced man with a smirk and sparkle in his blue eyes.
I’ve since been blessed to make surfing a part of my life – a meditative activity that allows you to express yourself freely, to have fun, teaching you to understand the elements and challenging you to be at one with them; always keeping me coming back for more. Yet somehow leaving you with a strange ebb and flow of contentment and longing. Forever researching for the best combination of wind, swell, tide, sand, rocks, reef whether there be rain or shine.
We packed up everything one needs to survive in a remote wilderness without any infrastructure and headed out – this time not entirely to score waves – rather to find the enchantment of that picture. Following a beautiful blushing sky out of town at daybreak filled my soul with the excitement of not knowing what’s around the next corner. Dry vegetation became drier, the sun hotter, and the only hint of green are neat agricultural lands trailing the contour of the river. As the day drew on and the wheels kept rolling through barren countryside, tar turned to gravel, the heat almost became too much when we felt a kiss of cool ocean breeze through open windows from across the dunes. The road guided us around restricted mining areas, through crusty saltpans and finally cresting another hill, it lay stretched out ahead of us, twisting along the coast - untouched as far as the eye can see. We followed its rocky, sandy, undulating surface from bay to bay, headland to headland, to explore what was around the next corner. You can’t help but smile from the sight of nature in all its glory greeting you at each turn while the dry air whips through your hair and the sun burns your skin.
We found a nook just off the beaten track and set up camp a few metres from the high tide mark. All around us, intricate succulent shrubs were waiting for their little bit dew from the dawn mist. Powder white sandy beaches where the waves repetitively wash up against rocky outcrops and banks of muscle shells. It was just us – friends, fire and fresh air.
A pink sunset surf out front was all we needed to wash off the dust from the long drive, we stepped into nature to make us feel right at home. As the sun dipped over the horizon, jackets and beanies were donned as we huddled close around the fire, beer in hand, staring up at a sky full of stars. Bellies were full and tucked into bed each in the back of our mobile homes just before the infamous mist bank rolled in over the land. The crashing waves and moisture droplets gathering and dripped from the awning lulling us to sleep.
Morning brought a grey hue across the coast as the mist sat tight. This called for tea in bed with a book; a little second sleep, and then a dash and dip in the ocean to kick start the day. Multiple cups of coffee were brewed on the beach while we waited for the sun to burst through the mist – time is not of the essence in these parts.
All of a sudden the sun bust through, searing away the last remnants of cool and making way for diving, snorkeling, spearfishing and surfing in these crystal clear waters, freezing and thawing our bodies in and out of the water under blue skies. Just like that, the light starts fading to pinks and oranges as the sun makes its way to the horizon.
Fire lit, warm gear on, cold beers in hand – over and over again – cheers!
I found what I was looking for out there – no sense of time, surrendering to the wild, harsh, unpredictable, raw, contrasting and beastly beautiful wilderness of the west coast.